I’ve been holding off on publishing this one because I figured I would do more research. But I never seemed to get around to doing that. The reason is because Bible Way, near the mouth of I-395, did a great thing. The fed and local government’s “plan” was to run that interstate up through what was my 4th St house and over on to Florida Avenue. Bible Way played a part in stopping it. I figured they deserved more research on the matter.
In 1957, Bible Way Church at 1130 New Jersey Ave NW was headed by Rev. Smallwood E. Williams. The Washington Post wrote of Rev. Williams, “In 1963, he used his political connections to save his church from being torn down. Interstate 395 was scheduled to go through his building. With the help of Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey, then a senator from Minnesota, Williams got the plans redrawn so that the highway would skirt the site.”
Bible Way’s own website tells me they began in Shaw in a storefront at 1409 9th St NW. Looking at the 1957 survey, it was a large church with 2,000 members, a Sunday attendance over 3,000, and several paid staff members. It was also an African American church as the body reported that 99% of members were Black. Looking at the occupational distribution, I’m going to guess this was a blue collar church, as in line with Pentecostal type churches. Most of the membership, 69%, lived outside of the boundaries (see below) of the Northwest Urban Renewal Area (part of which became Shaw) in other parts of DC.
Quick rundown. It was and still is an African American church. It was a fairly large church with over 3,000 members able to support a full time minister, assistant minister, sexton, assistant sexton and social worker.
When I last visited Ascension & St. Agnes, many years ago, it was an Episcopal church offering a high church service. It is located at 1215 Massachusetts Ave NW. It’s in Mt. Vernon Sq, but I’m going to count it as a Shaw church.
It was pretty much a White church when I visited and was so in 1957. It’s parish boundaries were pretty much that of the map above, but they said they drew their membership from all over the metro area, as the greatest bulk came from Maryland and Virginia.
It appears that the church itself is no longer operating and the parish has merged with Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. The school, Gonzaga (Mr. Tony Lewis’ alma mater) appears to be for exclusive use for the school. Looking at the 1957 survey, it looks like times changed and tables turned, because then, the church ran the school, not the other way around.
The church ran an elementary school, a girl’s high school and a boy’s high school. We can see where the boy’s school went, I wonder what happened to the elementary school and the girl’s school. The church was a racially mixed church with 15-20% of the parishioners being Black. Half of the parish lived in the NW urban renewal area, while the next largest group lived in other parts of DC. The range of types of occupations seem evenly split.
I’m posting this church survey earlier than I had planned because of a Black Home Owners of TC post that I plan to put up and I wanted this to be available. This is the 1957 Church Survey for the Northwest Urban Renewal Area. It was probably the one spot for in depth information about individual churches, big and small, in Shaw, and a little bit outside of Shaw. This post is about the Third Baptist Church at 1546 5th St NW.
This was the church of a previous Black Home Owner of Truxton Circle, Officer James S. Boswell who had long since died before this survey was done. But let’s take a look.
Third Baptist was and still is an African American church. In 1957 it reported to have 600 members of which a majority lived in the NW Urban Renewal Area. However there was a mention that members were moving from NW and Georgetown to NE DC. They didn’t report any numbers for their occupational distribution, saying that there were many white collar workers and the majority were unskilled manual workers.
The Church of God and Saints of Christ was located at 401 New York Ave NW, which technically puts it in Mt. Vernon Square. Currently the First Tabernacle Beth El sits there. The church survey doesn’t provide a lot of information except it had a “bishop” who lived around the corner at 405 M St NW.
Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church sat at 1308 Vermont Ave NW in Logan Circle. In 1957 it was one of the two predominately African American Lutheran churches in the city. It’s current address is 1306 Vermont Ave NW.
The 1957 survey was a look at churches in what was the Northwest Urban Renewal area. This area’s boundaries were roughly, starting at the southern border I and 15th Street to NY Ave to Mt. Vernon Square, to Massachusetts Ave, 2nd St NE, Florida Ave, then 15th St NW to the west.
There was another survey in 1970. It wasn’t as rich as the 1957 survey. Churches in Shaw: A Report of the Survey of Churches in the Shaw Urban Renewal Area of Washington, D.C., 1970 , seen below, does not look at each and every individual church. The churches are all lopped together in one report.